Safety Leadership: A leader’s role in fostering well-being on the front line
Editor’s Note: Achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace demands strong leadership. In this monthly column, experts from global consulting firm DEKRA share their point of view on what leaders need to know to guide their organizations to safety excellence.
The “Great Resignation”; work-from-home isolation; burnout; and record levels of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation have commanded headlines in recent months. Workplace well-being is gaining importance among all levels of employees. For those on the front line, however, it’s even more imperative, as stressors can cause them to make critical errors that can lead to injury.
The world of work has changed. Team members are more aware of the importance of well-being in the workplace – and expect leaders to cultivate it. Unfortunately, many leaders have neither an understanding of well-being nor the skills needed to foster it. This must change.
Well-being is that key component that helps us thrive. It includes the presence of positive emotions, such as contentment and positive functioning, and the absence of negative emotions, including depression and anxiety. Many contributors to well-being exist, but the three that leaders can most influence at work are physical, psychological and social.
Here are six areas that drive well-being:
- Healthy mind and body
- Purpose: understanding that you add value and have worth
- Work and life satisfaction: having goals and feeling like you’re achieving them
- Focus of control: having a feeling of control and influence in your life
- A sense of belonging: having pride in being part of a work group
- Emotional resilience: understanding that when negative things happen, you’ll get through them
Fostering well-being requires an understanding of what’s working well and identifying improvement opportunities. You must assess the level of well-being for yourself, your team and your organization on the well-being continuum, from “beginning” to “progressing” to “flourishing.” For each category (physical, psychological and social), are you and your teams at the beginning stage, in which threats to well-being are present without substantial support? Are you progressing, where systemic efforts have begun with a focus on well-being activities? Are you, your teams and your organization flourishing, meaning the work environment is flush with well-being drivers? Ask yourself:
Physical well-being. Do employees feel safe? Are they informed on how to fend off fatigue and keep well with diet and exercise? Do they have the information and tools to fend off any other barriers to physical health? Are there organizational barriers to physical well-being?
Psychological well-being. Do employees feel they can be themselves at work? Is there an active effort to keep stress levels low and foster good mental health? Do their experience of work and the subsequent thoughts and feelings drive them toward or away from well-being?
Social well-being. Does membership in a particular work group help or hinder well-being? Do employees feel connected to others and cared for? Do they feel safe to speak up without fear of judgment?
Once you have a solid understanding of where you, your team and your organization are on the well-being continuum, you can determine where you, as a leader, can engage with your employees to assess how they’re doing, support them as they take protective actions to keep well, and enhance organizational programs with science-based and practical actions to help employees thrive.
As leaders and their organizations enhance their well-being skills and cultivate a culture of well-being, employees will have the coping skills to address stressors at work and home, resulting in a positive – and safe – work experience for everyone. Your frontline employees will be better able to focus on working safely and controlling exposure for themselves and others as they continue working on well-being alongside you.
This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.
As a Ph.D. behavior analyst with two decades of experience, Angelica Grindle specializes in creating safety excellence through the application of behavioral science at all organizational levels. As vice president of DEKRA, she guides organizations initiatives to their unique needs and generate the support needed from key stakeholders to create long-lasting change.
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